The fight for Pope County casino license continues

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Cherokee Nation and Gulfside Casino Partnership have been battling it out for a license to build a casino in Pope County.

Since the beginning of the new year, Cherokee Nation has tried to clear several legal battles stopping them from breaking ground.

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First, the organization asked Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen to dismiss a lawsuit against the racing commission filed by The Citizens for a Better Pope County. The lawsuit centers on the legality of a previous letter of support from outgoing Pope County officials.

The next thing they did was ask Griffen to dissolve a temporary restraining order that bars the racing commission from issuing a license. Griffen put the breaks on the process Friday amid questions over the entire application process.

Then, the Cherokee Nation appealed the decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. He intervened on behalf of Gulfside Casino Partnership as they try to get the the racing commission to approve their application. Right now, that’s all scheduled to go to the Arkansas Supreme Court. 

Gulfside’s attorney, Casey Castleberry, applauded Fox’s decision. 

“Judge Fox’s order confirmed that the Cherokee group does not have an interest in the case we filed before Judge Fox and the racing commission does not have the authority to establish an application period until our judicial review period is completed,” said Castleberry.

But, Cherokee Nation is not backing down. They want the racing commission to grant them the license at the next meeting. They stand by their belief that they are the only company that met all the criteria in the second round of applications.

Cherokee Nation CEO Chuck Garrett wrote in a statement: 

“As the only qualified applicant for the Pope County casino license with letters and a resolution of support from Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the Quorum Court pursuant to Amendment 100, as well as an economic development contract with Pope County worth more than $40 million, it is important that we do all we can to protect our interests. We remain confident and look forward to our application being accepted by the Racing Commission for good cause shown and subsequently being given the opportunity to make a formal presentation and ultimately being granted the license.”

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Gulfside hopes when all the legal dust settles, their application ends up back on top.

“During that first application period, no other applicant submitted any letter of support during that May application period and no other applicant appealed the denial from that application period,” said Castleberry.